The Packard Bell EasyNote MZ35- U-005 (£499 inc. VAT) offers mid-range performance at a budget price, and is ideal for the first-time buyer. Although well priced, the trade-off is reduced portability. Weighing 2.5kg, we found it comfortable for short journeys, but not for any long-term travel. Worse was its 71-minute battery life, which is spectacularly low.

Usability is a mixed bag. The keyboard is wide and well spaced, and the keys are both comfortable and responsive. Unfortunately, the touchpad is too small to scroll easily across the screen in a single motion, and productivity is limited slightly as a result.

As with the Hi-Grade, Packard Bell has used Intel's older Core Duo technology. This first-generation dual-core chip remains competent, and is more than enough for office and internet use. Only when editing large video files did we see an obvious drop in speed and response times.

With graphics provided by an integrated ATi chip, gaming and high-performance multimedia use is impossible. But for day-to-day business and family use, you won't notice the lack of power. 2D games run with ease, but don't expect much more.

Due to the larger chassis, a 15.4-inch panel is used. Providing more screen space than many other laptops, there's room to work with multiple windows at once. Using a glossy Super-TFT coating, colours are bright and vivid enough for accurate image editing.

At this low price, the 80GB hard drive is smaller than rivals, but is still adequate. Photos, music and office work can be stored with ease, but avid digital media collectors may find that space is limited. For saving files to CD and DVD, a dual-layer recordable DVD drive is in place.

Basic sharing

For wirelessly sharing data at high speeds, an 802.11a/b/g Wi-fi card is fitted. Ethernet connectivity runs at 10/100 Base-T speed and is fairly slow. Along with the Hi-Grade, extra features are also limited. While most rivals add cameras, security tools and/or TV tuners for free, you get no such extras at this price. Of course, the money you save on the purchase price can be used to add extras at a later date.

Although better power and features can be bought for the mobile professional, you'll be hard pressed to find it at the same price as the Packard Bell EasyNote MZ35-U-005. For the first-time buyer needing a laptop for short journeys around town, this is a solid choice.